03 December 2005

The infinitives of the Dominican Order...

St. Francis Xavier: I Cor 9.16-19, 22-23; Mark 16.15-20
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

Laudare! Benedicere! Praedicare! To praise, to bless, to preach. The infinitives of the Dominican Order! To offer grateful homage to God, to proclaim as holy, to speak the Word—the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ. And the Word abiding in our hearts, pulling and pushing to be freed, gnawing at the bit for leave to run wild. That founding desire to find Christ, to offer him blessing and praise, and to witness for him by speaking his Word, that desire is the beat of our souls, the music that moves us through a day and day-to-day to the end. It is the desire, soaked through muscle and skin and hair and bone at our creation, the desire to live right now in his spirit and to live forever with him in the final vision of Beauty Himself. What gives us life, what animates us, sparks us to being grateful creatures of an abounding Father is the bursting want of Him, His Word, and the privilege of speaking that Word in witness!

Before he left his students and after, Jesus ordered those who followed him to move away from the familiar, the comfortable, and the predictable and to move toward the alien, the discomforting, and the wild. He said to them over and over again that preaching and teaching his Good News to the ravening wolves of this world would mean pain, isolation, and persecution. Never once did he promise them adulation or fame. Ridicule and infamy, yes, but never popularity or celebrity.

Why? The Good News offers an austere choice. Jesus says to his disciples: “Whoever believes [the Gospel] and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” This stark dichotomy between eternal life and eternal condemnation strikes the postmodern ear as hateful exclusion, a limitation on our options, and deadly to expanding possibilities. And our postmodern ears are hearing exactly right. The black line distinction that Jesus draws between believing his Good News and dismissing it is exactly the distinction between living our lives as the Word and living our lives as the Lie.

We take on new life in the Word at baptism. We are confirmed in that life by the Spirit. And we approach the altar of sacrifice to eat His body and drink His blood, to consume the Word so that we will be brought to perfection as the Word. To believe this and to preach it in our lives day-to-day is to live right now the promise of the coming kingdom. To believe and preach, as students of the Lord, anything else is to live right now the promise of condemnation, to accept the Lie and to die as slaves to the enemy forever.

If this seems too much, too hard that’s because it is. Preaching the Good News is not for the fluttering heart or the pallid soul left alone. Jesus knew his students. And he knows us. He promised them and he promises us the contempt of the worldly wise. So what? He also promised to place on our tongues the words of truth to be spoken for his witness, to work in us and through us to show the gospel to anyone who will hear, anyone who will see. So, even a fluttering heart can speak the Word. Even the pallid soul can witness to the Gospel.

Great signs will point the way to Christ’s offer of universal salvation. Be a great sign of his offer. You cannot be a great sign using self-righteous judgment or persnickety legalism or private revelation. Why? We do not own the gospel; we are owned. It is his Word we praise, his Word we bless, and his Word we preach.

Laudare! Benedicere! Praedicare!


  1. Fr. Philip,

    Thank you for posting your homilies online. I sense a great zeal and enthusiasm from them. I especially enjoyed your comment about being owned by the gospel. It takes a great deal of humility and prayerful discernment to live out this "stewardship"...Luke Ch16 1-8. God Bless and please send some holy Dominicans to Ithaca, NY...Cornell University needs a holy campus ministry.

  2. DominicMaria,

    Thank you for checking out the blog. I'm glad that you find my homilies helpful. As for holy priests at Cornell...isn't Cornell in the Eastern Province? They're packed with holy priests!

    Fr. Philip, OP

  3. Wonderful sermons, Father! I have only had time to read the first two, but they have definitely had the intended effect - spiritual growth. Modern human beings detest the thought that they might have to humble themselves before anything. Allowing ourselves to be "owned by the Gospel" puts us in our true place in God's Creation. Thank you for your sermons - I'll continue to check back.

  4. Fr. Powell,

    yes Cornell is in the eastern province, but this area of New York has no nearby dominican priory or parish....closest is NYC which is about 4 hrs drive...not a feasible option. We need a closer dominican parish or priory. A studious place like cornell is a perfect place for dominican spirituality and campus ministry.

    I have read your comments on the blog" Cornell society for a Good Time" and I encourage you with the old rite.